On the eve of this year’s Routes Asia air service development forum in Manila, Philippines, Auckland in New Zealand was among the most talked about destinations in the world. Like any other day an Emirates Airbus A380 was poised to touch down at Auckland Airport, but unlike previous arrivals via Australia, this flight on March 2, 2016 had arrived direct from the airline’s Dubai International Airport, marking the introduction of the world’s longest scheduled passenger air service.
Emirates already operates three daily A380 flights into Auckland but up until March 1, 2016 these all operated on a direct, one-stop basis via Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. In late January this year it revealed plans to introduce this fourth rotation, the first to operate non-stop between Dubai and Auckland, providing more efficient connectivity between New Zealand and markets across the Middle East, Africa and in to Europe.
The additional rotation is scheduled to be flown using a Boeing 777-200LR configured with 266-seats: eight First Class suites, 42 lie-flat Business Class seats and 216 comfortable Economy Class seats. However, in a traditional Emirates celebratory fanfare the new flight was launched using one of its Super Jumbo, meaning that four of the type were parked adjacent to each other on the apron at Auckland International Airport on the landmark day.
Operating a non-stop service between Dubai and Auckland has been in Emirates’ sights for some time, but its launch has remained dependent on availability of suitable aircraft as it continues to rapidly expand its global network of destinations, and frequency of flights and capacity on existing routes.
“This is an important development for our customers, for Emirates, and for New Zealand. We anticipate high demand for the route, providing a further boost to inbound tourist traffic into New Zealand that now exceeds three million a year. We also expect the service to be popular with New Zealanders seeking faster connections to Europe and the Middle East,” said Gary Chapman, President Group Services & dnata, Emirates Group.
Emirates started operating in New Zealand with a double-daily Auckland service in August 2003, adding a third daily Auckland service a few months later, and then providing a daily Christchurch service in 2004. Progressively from 2009 onwards, it has upgauged the Auckland services to the larger A380.
With the introduction of the non-stop service, Emirates will be flying more than 2,000 seats a day in each direction on New Zealand services and the appeal of this market to a hub operator with many onward flows via the Middle East is clear to see.
New Zealand exporters will also benefit from the new service, being able to access more capacity through Dubai, one of the world’s major cargo hubs, particularly of benefit with perishable goods for markets in the Middle East and Africa regions. New Zealand is renowned for its high quality produce including dairy products.
The new service will make use of a flexible routing, which can vary by day, taking advantage of tail winds and avoiding head winds to reduce the time in the air. This proven technology, combined with the elimination of an en-route stop in Australia, could shorten the time to Auckland by up to three hours with an estimated flight time of just under 16 hours from Dubai to New Zealand and 17 hours, 15 minutes in the other direction.
Auckland Airport estimates this new service will provide an extra 194,180 seats per annum on the Dubai route and deliver an additional $125 million every year to the New Zealand economy. “This new flight will help to significantly increase the number of people travelling between New Zealand and Europe, India and of course the Middle East. It will help to further stimulate travel, trade and tourism with these important and growing markets,” said Norris Carter, General Manager – Aeronautical Commercial, Auckland Airport.
The non-stop flight from Auckland to Dubai will take on average around 17 hours and 15 minutes to cover the 14,200km (8,824 miles) distance, making it a longer route by distance than the current Qantas service between Dallas and Sydney which is a distance of 13,800km (8,578 miles). However, its initial flights have shaved almost an hour off the flight time due to good weather conditions.
Emirates was due to add a longer flight by duration but shorter by distance with the launch of non-stop flights between Dubai and Panama City, a distance of 13,820km (8,588 miles) but a flight time of around 17 hours 35 minutes. This link was due to commence from February 1, 2016 but was initially delayed until March 31, 2016. In the last couple of days Emirates has removed the schedule for the flight from the GDS from the proposed new launch date – as first reported by our Airline Route blog – and has confirmed it will not now launch the route until late 2016 or 2017.